Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What if Conservatives Had Control?

Today, the big national political news is the development that the Minnesota Senate Race is finally resolved. It's official now -- Liberal Democrat Al Franken is now going to be the junior United States Senator from Minnesota -- winning the battle in the Minnesota Supreme Court over Norm Coleman. Though it is unquestionable that the election was stolen, the reality is now that it hands the Democrats a virtual 60-seat majority, when you consider that both of the body's independents -- Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders (who is an avowed socialist, unlike his colleagues, who are closet socialiasts) -- both caucus with the Democrats.

What this means is that aside from a narrow 5-4 center-right majority on the Supreme Court (highlighted by the 5-4 majority in the New Haven firefighters case on Monday), there is absolutely no check on the liberal power in Washington. Obama was the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate, and is now President. Biden was one of the more liberal members of the Senate, and is now Vice President. Nancy Pelosi is a San Francisco liberal and is Speaker and all but about 30 members of the Democratic Caucus come from the liberal wing of the party Harry Reid, aside from a couple of Nevada-specific issues, is a liberal and is Majority Leader of the Senate. Out of the 60 Senators that are Democrats, the vast majority are from the liberal wing of the party. Only a few -- Lieberman, Nelson of Nebraska, Landrieu, Pryor, Dorgan, Conrad, Bayh, and Lincoln -- could be considered moderate Democrats in any sense of the word, and most of them vote quite liberally on most issues.

Last week, a poll from Gallup indicated that only 20% of the nation considered themselves liberal. 40% were conservative, 35% moderate, and the rest undecided. So, we essentially have a situation where elected officials who come from the 20% liberal faction of the country have been given absolute power. Aside from that small check (when Kennedy votes "right") on the Supreme Court, there is absolutely nothing to slow liberal policies down aside from the possibility of outrage of the American public generating enough political fear among members of Congress that it causes them to lessen the effect of some of what they're trying to impelement.

Absolute-power scenarios rarely come in American politics. In the 1990's, under Clinton, the Republicans had control of Congress and slowed down much of what he wanted. Even in the 1993-94 period when he had a Democratic Congress, the majority in the Senate was not as large as they have now, and there were a lot more conservative Democrats then -- Richard Shelby, of Alabama, for instance -- now a conservative Republican -- was actually a Democrat at that time. In the early part of this decade, when Republicans had control, they didn't have a large enough margin in the Senate to stop filibusters, and the moderates had enough seats in the Senate that conservatives actually only had about 45-49 seats, not enough to pass things, let alone stop Democrat stalling tactics.

As a result of this rare power, liberals are trying to push through a number of far-left initiatives while they can. Cap and Tax and Government Health Care, which could ONLY be enacted under this current liberal control, are the two biggest examples that could represent a fundamental change in how this government does business -- simply becuase they would be so hard to undo. Other items -- such as undoing the Defense of Marriage Act, abortion-on-demand, etc -- are coming down the pike as well. Not to mention liberal judges, uncountable "special czars", a liberal foreign policy, and other things that are the result of Obama's direction.

All this led this blog to think what if we were operating in an alternative political universe that was exactly the opposite of what we had now? What if the conservative Senator was elected President, and conservatives controlled the Senate with 60 seats, and just 3-4 moderate Republicans? What policies would be implemented? What would be the long term effect on the country?

Imagine this -- imagine if Congressman Paul Ryan (albeit a Congressman at the moment, not a Senator), who many see as a rising star, became President? What if the Arlen Specters and Charlie Crists of the world were unseated by the Pat Toomeys and and Marco Rubios of the world? what if Steve King took the place of Tom Harkin, and Michele Bachmann took the place of Al Franken? What then?

Here are a few thoughts:

- The United States would continue the policies of George W. Bush overseas. We'd resume calling the war the "War on Terror", and we'd take the battle directly to the terrorists. We'd stand behind freedom fighters in Iran and stop upholding dictators in Honduras. We'd do more than send a ship chasing around the North Korean vessel, and threathen North Korea with annihliation if they dared attack Hawaii or South Korea. We'd win the war in Iraq and Afgahnistan, and actually increase spending on the military. We'd stop the closing process at Gitmo and call back the terrorists from Palau. We'd resume real military tribunals and stop the notion of terrorists having hearings in U.S. courts.

- When Souter, Ginsburg, and Stevens moved on, we'd appoint people like Janice Rogers Brown, Diane Sykes and Edith Jones to the United States Supreme Court. We'd then have a court which would uphold the rights of the President to fight foreign wars, including the terrorists. Roe V. Wade would be overturned, ending the notion that the right to kill a baby is protected in the Constitution. McCain-Feingold would be ruled unconstitutional, and freedom of speech would return. The Second Amendment would be upheld, not only in DC but nationwide. The Tenth Amendment would be upheld and power would be returned to the states. Eminent Domain would again be illegal under the Constitution.

- Rather than adopting Government Health Care, we'd be on the road towards a true free market in health care, where consumers had control rather than insurance companies, places of employment, or the government. Choice would expand, competitiveness would increase, and costs would drop. The quality of care would increase. Individuals would have control over their own health care, and the only government involvement would be basic safeguards such as portability, preexisting condition coverage, and basic emergency room care.

- Rather than adopting the Cap and Tax program, we'd have a real energy policy which pursued a multi-pronged strategy of dealing with our energy needs. While wind and solar would be welcomed, we'd actually drill for oil whereever it could be found, including offshore and on the north slope of Alaska. We'd pursue reasonable environmentally "green" friendly ideals without adopting policies that relied on junk science. We'd recognize that temperatures are actually dropping, not increasing, and stop the arrogant belief that man actually can have the kind of impact on the environment that liberals think it can have -- either positively or negatively. We'd end the trend towards government telling people how to live and what to buy and how much energy to consume -- but rather, we'd promote nuclear energy, clean coal technology, and other altnerative energy sources instead. As a result, gas prices would plummet back well under $2, home energy costs would drop, the price of an airline ticket would drop, and therefore, humans would travel more, spend more money, and the economy would get a boost.

- Rather than a massive expansion of government, we'd see budget reform implemented. Zero-based budgeting would be adopted, where every program, each year, started with 0 dollars and had to justify every dime it would receive from the government. Over time, the budget deficit would go away and we'd begin to pay off our debt. The effect of this would be to create more money for government to return tax dollars to the people and perform tasks that government was created to do -- the military, highways, etc.

- Massive government bailouts would cease. Banks, car companies, and any other big business would be allowed to fail. The President would no longer meddle in the affairs of private business. American capitalism and opportunism would then take hold, and over time, within a few years, the voids created by companies folding would be met by new companies with better products and services.

- Entitlements would be reformed or reduced. While present-day seniors would be protected, Social Security would be reformed long term so younger people could opt out of the system and instead, keep their own money to build their own retirement account or, do things like, buy a house or pay off debt. The result would be the payroll tax -- a regressive tax that hurts low income people as well as small business owners, particularly the self employed -- would be gradually phased out, meaning that people making about $30,000 or less -- and couples making about $50,000 or less, would only pay a small income tax and therefore be able to save and invest and protect their families and businesses into the future.

- The tax code would be replaced by a simple tax such as the Fair Tax or a Flat Tax, which would be capped constitutionally. The only time we'd increase taxes is in the case of a war. This would put accountants out of business, but reduce costs dramatically for businesses, individuals, and promote the free market economy.

- Regulations would be reduced or eliminated except where to promote safet, protect consumers and investors, and where it was necessary to encourage competition. Rather than overregulation, fraud would be discouraged by harsh penalties and protection for whistleblowers.

- A Constitutional Amendment would be passed that would outlaw gay marriage, or at the very least, prevent the Full Faith and Credit Clause from applying to gay marriage.

- Embryonic Stem Cell Research and Human Cloning would not only be defunded, it would be banned period.

- Abortion would either be returned to the states, or, perhaps, a Human Life Amendment would be given to the states, recognnizing unborn children as having equal protection under federal law.

- Education policy would be returned to the states, and free market economics and competition would be promoted where possible. Vouchers and other forms of school choice would be encouraged and promoted -- not just in DC but elsewhere, implemented by states. Rather than huge federal mandates, the only federal involvement would be student loans in certain cases, or other policies which would encourage more choice in education. The focus would be on the education of children rather than the promotion of unions and a narrow agenda.

- Speaking of unions, card check would be a thing of the past and unions would be limited in their power, returning to their intended state of simply protecting the worker. People would be free to work and union membership would be deemphasized.

- Government involvement in business would be limited. Rather than being a stifling effect through taxation, regulation, and such, government would only serve as a help to promote enterpreneuers through small business loans and enterprise zones to encourage development. Rather than bulldozing towns such as Obama wants to do in Flint, Michigan, we'd pursue policies which reduced the tax burden to zero to give the American Spirit a chance to work in areas that people previously thought were hopeless.

- Churches would have their freedom of speech restored, and be free to participate in political efforts, as the tax penalties for churches speaking about candidates would be taken away.

- We'd have a national discussion about faith and family, and restoring basic moral values and absolutes, rather than the continued progression towards moral relativism, where family means anything and faith means nothing. People would be encouraged to pray in school, pray at the workplace, and talk about their faith openly. God and Jesus would be welcomed, not shunned, while other faiths would still be respected in the tradition of America.

This is a long list but is a broad one. The list would be longer if conservatives were elected nationwide at the state and local level as well. But, that's another post.

For conservatives currently fighting the good fight on blogs, in campaigns, and in non profit organiztaions and tea parties, this is the kind of nation we are fighting for. While this may seem far away right now, and indeed it is, the fact is that conservatives out number liberals 2-1 in this country, and if approached with reason, facts, and kindness, many of the moderates will side with conservatives.

The problem is, we've never had a large enough collection of leaders who not only preach this message, but act on it. Everytime we've had power -- we've largely blown it. When we've had it and used it well -- such as with Reagan and tax cuts and fighting Communism, or Bush with the terrorists and promoting freedom -- the country embraces conservatives. It is when we fall for the lie that liberalism is the way to go or that compromising principles is the same as governing that we fail.

The good news is that in difficulty comes opportunity. There are leaders on the horizon that are well poised to be the generals in a new conservative army. We have Fox News. On the radio, we have Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Gleen Beck, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Fred Thompson, and others. In Kansas, we have people like Sam Brownback, Todd Tiahrt, Jerry Moran, Tim Huelskamp, Mary Pilcher Cook, Jeff Colyer, Anthony Brown, Kris Kobach, Lance Kinzer, Ty Masterson, Kasha Kelley, and others. In other states, we have people like Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, Haley Barbour, Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, John Thune, and others. We have candidates on the horizon as well, such as Michael Williams and Eliazabeth Ames Jones in Texas; Pat Toomey, in Pennsylvania; Marco Rubio in Florida.

Of course, there are many questions still be to be answered. Will these conservative candidates and public figures be unfraid to not only run on conservative ideas, but actually act on them, and attempt to convince voters that these policies are right? Rather than "voting for their district", will conservative elected officials in tough districts actually vote their conscience and then convince their electorate why they are right? Will supposedly national conservative leaders (like John Cornyn and Mitch McConnell) endorse principled conservatives like Marco Rubio rather than backing perceived "popular" people like liberal Charlie Crist? Will these leaders actually recruit conservative candidates and promote a conservative platform, so the term "Republican" actually means something besides a mere party label? Will conservative candidates have the courage to run, and create more boats in the rising tide of American conservatism? Will conservative activists have the courage to say no to liberal tactics, and get online on places like Facebook and Twitter, and fight the liberal lies? Will the Tea Party particpants actually get involved with and donate to conservative campaigns and run for office themselves?

All of these questions -- and more -- remain to be answered. The conservative movement depends on it. The ability of conservatives to achieve governing numbers like liberals have now depends on it. The future of Kansas depends on it.

Indeed, the nation's future depends on it.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Saying NO to RINO's

Perhaps as much as anywhere in the country, the infamous "split" within the Republican Party has always been quite pronounced in Kansas, particularly in Johnson County. Despite years and years of trying, particualrly by conservatives, there has been little to no ground made up in terms of unifying the so-called "conservative" wing with the so-called "moderate" wing of the party.

There is a reason for this. The reason is because in most cases, the so-called "moderate" Republicans are not really Republicans -- they are what has come to be known as Republicans In Name Only -- meaning that if they were in a Democratic area they'd be Democrats, but because Kansas is a red state, they have to remain with the Republican label if they have any real hope of getting elected. The truth is, they are actually as liberal as Democrats, thus making any attempt at "unifying" with conservatives completely meaningless for the basic fact there is very little -- socially, fiscally, or otherwise -- that they can agree on.

As evidence of this, over the years, some of these "moderates" have included people who are now Democrats -- including Cindy Neighbor, Lisa Benlon, Ron Wimmer, Mark Parkinson, Paul Morrison, etc. Each of these figures was once a moderate Republican hero, touted as someone the party could rally behind as some kind of moderate voice -- when in fact, in each case, there was nothing moderate about them.

And therein lies the main part of the problem -- the term "moderate" has been abused and redefined as a word for liberals to hide behind in an attempt to conceal their real liberalism and in an effort to woo voters -- who are likely more conservative than they are on the issues but moderate in "appraoch" -- by appearing reasonable when compared to those right-wing radical Republicans who want to end all taxes and stop public education. At least, that's the standard RINO talking point.

In our eyes, the real definition of a "moderate" Republican is someone who is perhaps not as conservative on one or two issues, or perhaps not as "aggressive" in tone, but in large part, agrees with the fundamental tenants of Republicanism. For example, Bob Dole's voting record was quite conservative but many considered him to be a moderate voice. Bob Dole is a moderate Republican. Looking more nationally, someone like Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas is a moderate Republican -- as she is largely conservative but takes a slightly more liberal position on a couple issues -- but is unquestionably part of the Republican fold. Looking locally, Lynn Jenkins is a moderate Republican.

That's far different from a RINO. And it is our belief that the party not only needs to stop trying to unify with RINO's but actively oppose them. This is due to the fact one, these people are destructive legislatively. Two, the party wastes too much time trying to cater to these people. Third, the cconservative message gets watered down and looks too inconsistent when we're always trying to bend over backwards for some RINO who we're never going to agree with.

All of this is to say that the voters are looking for a new message they can rally behind -- a consistent conservative message on both fiscal and social issues. That won't ever come when one is worrying about pleasing the Arlen Specters of the world.

Case in point -- the 8 Republicans who on Friday voted in favor of the cap-and-tax bill are RINO's. No ifs, ands or buts about it. There is absolutely nothing consistent about being a Republican and voting for that bill. These people can absolutely be blamed for the passage of this bill, and in our view, should be treated just like Democrats -- meaning every single last one of them should draw a primary, because they are for all intents and purposes absolutely useless.

Here in Kansas, the same could be told for several members of the Johnson County delegation. The fact is, out of the 16 Republicans who we send to Topeka, up to six of them are never reliable for a vote on anything remotely conservative. As we covered earlier this year, it is these "moderates" that gave the state of Kansas yet another terrible budget despite all the economic signs pointing to the fact that more needed to be done.

One would think that such a dismal fiscal situation for the state would mean a "moderate" would actually moderATE and move away from the liberal spend-spend-spend dogma and vote conservative for once. But, see, as we said earlier -- they aren't moderates and they're not Republicans -- they're liberals, in almost every case.

Now, does this mean that there should be some litmus test on every issue? No. We favor a big tent here at Kaw & Border, but to us a Big Tent means tolerance for a different view on one or two issues. It does not mean being so big that a completely different political philosophy should be welcomed.

What we're advocating here is that conservatives and the Republican Party in general, particularly in this current state where Obama and company are driving every bad piece of legislation down our throats, recruit authentic conservative candidates who are committed to the party's principles. That doesn't mean they have to agree on every issue, but it does mean they hold a similar core philosophy.

Politically speaking, this means saying NO to RINO's. Not no to moderates -- but no to RINOs. This means, in primaries, recruiting conservative candidates against any RINO. Will everyone win? No. But as Newt Gingrich said the other day, a Rising Tide only can occur with enough boats in the water. Simply put, conservatives need to find boats in the water, and if they give them these candidates the support they need.

This all gets back to a fundamental point that too often, those who simply are involved in politics FOR the politics forget -- and that is that it's not just about wins and losses or about having an R or a D by your name. If the Republican Party is going to be successful, it can longer simply be a label for a candidate that vaguely means something to the right of the Democrats. The term "Republican" must mean something -- a set of core principles and values for which its candidates and officers will stive to uphold.

If conservatives and real Republicans do this, they will no longer be dependent upon the public's negative reaction to a Democratic line of mistakes -- but also proactive in giving the voting public something to vote for and be excited about. This will not only help Republicans get elected and stay elected, it will mean great things for the future of the state of Kansas and the nation as a whole.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Some Contrarian Thoughts on SM Park Deer Situation

Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day

Apparently, those famous lyrics from the Kansas State Song, "Home on the Range", no longer apply to Johnson County. Here, the deer will no longer play but instead be shot, the only thing roaming will be dozens of bulldozers building the next lifestyle center, and the only thing seldom heard will be the uninterrupted sounds of nature.

What brings us to this dripping sarcasm? The recent decision by the Johnson County Parks Board to have a "harvest" of deer in Shawnee Mission Park. The decision is to spend tens of thousands of dollars on training park police officers to sharpshoot deer. This isn't a small deal either -- they aim to reduce the amount of deer from 200 per square mile to 50 per square mile. So, you're talking about reducing the population by 3/4 in a public park.

There are many impassioned views on this subject, including those who are absolutely opposed to the hunt and those who are in favor of it. Neither side has the full array of facts on their side, in our view, but we at Kaw & Border do not believe the decision by the Board was a wise one for a host of reasons, including a failure to acknowledge how the county got to this situation in the first place, as well as the precedents set by allowing a hunt in a public suburban park.

First of all, we disagree that this is the wisest decision fiscally. Assuming for a second that there is indeed a huge deer problem at the park, and that hunting them down is the only option, is spending a bunch of money to train sharpshooters the best option, when the park could have charged trained/licensed hunters say, $100 a person, and actually made money? It seems that the parks board tried to split the baby between those who wanted a hunt and were crying the loudest for it and those who were concerned about safety, and now have a "solution" that really doesn't make much sense.

Second of all, is this really that big of problem to require such a drastic solution as a hunt in a public suburban park, previously thought to be free from hunting -- a "solution" which has - -and will continue to -- raise the emotions of thousands of Johnson Countians who are opposed to it because of the very real and understandable principle that hunting should not occur in a suburban park meant for recreation? Is there truly a public outcry for this, or are we making a decision based on a few loud complaints who are demanding a hunt? Is someone who chose to buy a home next to a large public park -- which has always had deer and will still have deer even after this hunt -- seriously credible when they are complaining about deer in their backyard? We've heard of NIMBYs, but that is taking it to the extreme.

Related to that point, did the county take a county-wide scentific poll to see what the public's overall view of the situation is? Making a decision based on a few dozen people showing up at a parks board hearing and a few passionate e-mails and calls seems to be caving into a mob mentality, no matter which side the mob comes from. This county is approaching 600,000 residents. A scentific survey of its residents -- all of whom pay for the park through tax dollars -- may have been warranted. Even if one assumes the problem is as dire as some make it out to be -- perhaps some scentific surveys could have beeon done as to the solution. Detailed questions could have been asked about whether the public feels there is a problem, how severe it is, and if there is, the proper method of dealing with it -- including the options of a sharpshooter hunt as has been enacted, a paid hunt through licensed hunters, or a relocation program. The questions would lay out the costs of each, and perhaps even inquire about the public's willingness to pay for a relocation program. They could even out lay out questions about how we got here in the first place -- such as "is the county developing too fast?" It would be interesting to know the results, and also important given the sensitivity of this issue, the long path it took to even get to this situation, and the long term solution it will take to ensure it won't happen again. Given that it is a LARGE PUBLIC PARK, which many people understandably value, it seems there would never be a better time for a public poll than now.

Third of all, on that very point, again assuming that this problem is as severe as they say it is, if the county was going to spend money, perhaps it should have explored a more humane solution than a hunt. Perhaps a relocation program, spread out over several years, to spread out the cost? This is a problem that took several years if not decades in occuring, perhaps it should take more than a couple years to solve it. Heck, we've now spent well over a year talking about the problem, perhaps the solution doesn't need to occur overnight either. If safety on Renner Road near 79th is an issue, why not simply reduce the speed to 30 mph for a while? That section of Renner is just to the north of where Lenexa has installed five roundabouts anyway, so the speed has been reduced already. Also, it's not as if deer are dying by the dozens here -- or as if there are massive public protests. Now, some will say -- the taxpayers shouldn't be paying for this and a relocation program is quite expensive. We'd like to see the reasons why -- but we see do the point about taxpayer dollars, being a blog that stands up for fiscal responsibility. Point is, we can take a step back and look at a better solution that addresses the problem while also not resorting to the drastic step of a hunt.

However, here is a contrarian thought: This is a public park with a problem brought on by publicly elected councils making poor decisions in terms of county development. So, whether we like it or not, if we believe in the notion of public parks as a county, then we have to be prepared to deal with any problem that arise from poor planning and that include spending money.

However, with more than half a million residents in this county, some of them quite wealthy, perhaps some of costs associated with a relocation program could have offset through the creation of a non profit entity that would raise money to relocate the deer. There are surely thousands of people opposed to the hunt and they could help fund the relocation program. Even those not absolutely opposed to the hunt might favor a relocation program, but the opposition seems to be cost-related. If these funds could have been raised in large part through private financing, then why not?

Fourth, and this gets to our main point -- the one thing we are not hearing in ANY of these discussions over the deer problem is perhaps the most important thing for county officials to know -- and that is a history lesson. How did we get here in the first place? Did the county overdevelop?

Let's assume for a moment the problem is as severe as they say it is -- that the number of deer in the park is unacceptable. Okay, fine. Let's deal with some other facts as well.

First is that this problem did not occur overnight. This is a problem brought on by years of poor planning and the lack of attention by the parks board, county officials, city officials, and developers who only care about making a buck.

Shawnee Mission Park has been there for decades, dating back to 1964 when it was developed. In 1964, Johnson County was a much smaller place. Yet, as the county has grown in size, and the population has creeped westward and southward, there has been amazingly little discussion about one, whether the park is sufficient to deal with a county whose population could eventually reached 750,000. Also, there was a stunning lack of discussion -- at least publicly -- about any potential problems that would stem from wildlife -- mainly deer -- essentially being forced to live in the park only, therefore gradually, over time, squeezing a large herd of deer -- previously spread out over several square miles -- into the one undeveloped area of land -- the park.

Rather than using any notion of a long term vision of overall county planning, which includes adequate park land to deal with the desires and needs of a citizenry, as well as the animals in the park, city and county officials instead did nothing, and have been in the pocket of developers who have gradually, over time, tried to develop every open green space available, whether the demand was there or not.

The most shining example of this -- with a direct impact on the deer problem -- is the "Blight in Lenexa" that this blog addressed back in April. About 20 years ago, long before this deer situation was on anyone's radar, the city of Lenexa decided they wanted to make Renner Road the next College Boulevard. So, they set aside enough land for 4.5 million acres of development for a city that at the time, only had about 35,000 people -- and still only has 43,000. The result, over time, through bulldozing and such, was the reduction of prime deer habitat. It used to be that a drive down Renner Road at the appropriate times would yield a few deer sightings between 87th and 95th streets, particularly along the wooded areas around 91st and Renner.

Now, rather than a few more acres of deer habitat, at 91st and Renner sits a half-built fitness center, now up for sale because it ran out of money, which stands as a fortress to failure -- failure to recognize that the demand isn't and may never be there for the vast development Lenexa envisions -- and a failure to any lack of REAL planning -- and no, not just planning that involved pretty designs from developers of massive retail complexes, but planning which took into account the needs of a growing population, the squeezing of deer habitat, and the possible problems that could arise from that.

Further point on the long term planning. These same surveys that show that there are 200 deer per square mile in and around the park -- could have likely shown a similar problem 5, 10, 15 years ago. It may not have been as severe, but the trend surely would have been there. Why not alert us to the problem then? It doesn't take a genius to realize this problem would get worse over time.

If the problem had been made known to the public, say, 10 years ago -- the county could have instituted a long term solution -- such as the establishment of a fund to help pay for a relocation program when the time came. As we stated earlier in this post, one benefit of being in a large, wealthy county is that there is a lot of money available for extra-curricular causes. One only need look at the many mega churches, expensive high end shopping centers, and neighborhoods of half million dollar homes to see that there is money available.

But, because the county didn't do that -- or didn't alert the public to it -- the public stayed ignorant. So now, several years later, in 2009, rather than having a ready-made long-term solution to a long term problem, our unelected parks board has come up with a poorly-planned, short term band-aid which doesn't address how we got here, and now establishes a precedent that hunting is okay in a public suburban park like Shawnee Mission Park.

Let's be clear here -- we are not opposed to hunting here at Kaw & Border. However, there is a big difference between a private landowner allowing hunting on his property and Johnson County, a large suburb, allowing hunting in a public recreational park mainly known for swimming, picnics, dog parks, and concerts. Let's keep in mind -- this will involve, for safety issues, the CLOSING of a public park for HUNTING. That may sound too "soft and fuzzy" type "Bambi talk" for some readers of this blog, but we don't live in rural Kansas or rural Missouri -- we live in a suburb and as such, the standards are and should be different.

To sum up, here are our thoughts:

1. We acknowledge there is a problem with the deer population at Shawnee Mission Park. We, however, do not feel that there is necessairly a need to reduce the herd as severely as they say.

2. Make no mistake, resorting to hunting in a public, suburban park is a DRASTIC step. Even if one is for a hunt of some kind, one should also acknowledge that this is a rather unusual step for a big suburb to take -- and perhaps look at the precedent it sets. Is this a one time thing or something we're going to do every 5 years?

3. Because it is so drastic, we should spend some time looking at how we got here in the first place -- overdevelopment, whether there is enough park land to match the current and future population of the county, failure to address this deer situation which began several years ago -- and perhaps learn from some of these lessons and adjust for the future.

4. We do not believe, as a matter of principle, that hunting should be allowed in a public suburban park. As we said earlier, this may raise the ire of those who think this stance is too bleeding heart, but we feel that the realities of a suburban community are different than those of a rural one. We are not opposed to hunting -- but we are in this particular instance.

5. We believe a detailed public survey would have been warranted -- which would have asked questions not only about the current situation, but everything surrounding it -- including whether Johnson County is overdeveloping and whether the park planning is sufficient, and even seeing how much sentiment there would be for a relocation program largely funded privately through donations.

6. We believe that a well-planned long term relocation program would have been the answer. Ideally, fundraising for this should have began several years ago (when the problem started to occur) to offset the cost, which we acknowledge is significant. However, we would have been okay with some public dollars being spent to address the critical parts of the herd now -- perhaps reducing it by 50 per square mile rather than 150 -- and then at the same time, establish a long term fundraising organization for a long-term relocation program to thin down the herd more.

7. We believe that the citizens of this county should pay more attention to the local boards who are in the pockets of developers who have no goal other than to build stuff. Building stuff is not a plan. "Lifestyle" centers do not make a community. A comprehensive plan does, something the public has signficant input in. More citizen participation in local elections and in local politics would help prevent these problems from happening.

In closing, we'll say this. The authors of this blog and family have been residents of Johnson County since the 1970's, so we take great interest in this issue, even though it's not as sexy as state and national politics. During these past 30 years, we have seen this county grow from the relatively small suburb with tons of room to the massive economic and development engine that it is, increasingly swallowed up by a shopping center here, a fancy new "smart corridor" there. Make no mistake, this is not all bad -- and we are, in general, proud of the progress and growth of Johnson County.

At the same time, however, we are increasingly concerned about the lack of leadership and planning. There is something to the notion of excessive suburban sprawl, and while we are not opposed to growth, we also believe that effective, balanced planning that takes into account all factors involved in a growing suburb is warranted, rather than the build-first, deal-with-consequences-later mentality our leaders seem to be employing.

This mentality is revealing itself in very public ways - we first saw the consequences of this with the God-awful City Center planning that has resulted in Lenexa becoming the joke of the metro area with it's half built blighted bulidings and ridiculous roundabouts. Now we have this problem at Shawnee Mission Park with deer, a problem that resulted from a stunning lack of attention over the past two decades, and had resulted in a drastic action that offends many while not addressing the real problems that caused it.

Unless attitudes are adjusted and current local leaders replaced, this type of problem will be the long term reality of our county.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Could 2010 be like 1994?

This weekend was a slow one in terms of big political news. However, one story largely unreported by mainstream news -- but one that should give Republicans hope and Democrats heartache -- is the fact that Obama's approval ratings are starting to go down.

First of all, we have this story from Gallup that Obama's approval rating has dropped to a still strong but lower-than-ever 58%. Keep in mind that the 58% number is of ADULTS, which is nto people who who vote or are even registered to vote. Adults who aren't registered typically lean towards Democrats anyway. So, among registered or "likely" voters, it is likely that Obama's approval number is lower than 58%.

This is proven out in, Sunday's Rasmussen Daily Tracking Poll, which shows Obama's "Total Approval" number all the way down to 53% compared to 46% dissapproving. This sample is among likely voters, who pay the most attention to what's going on and of course, are the voters most likely to participate in an off year election like is coming up here in 2009 (in Virginia and New Jersey) and in 2010. Even more alarming for Obama in this poll is the fact that among those who strongly approve or disapprove, Obama has gone into negative territory for the first time in his term -- just 32% strongly approve and 34% strong disapprove. Contrast that to about a month ago when the numbers were 36-28 -- +8 in favor. A simple look at the graph at the included link shows the trend line for Obama is not a good one.

What's interesting about these numbers is that they go against what the mainstream media is telling us - that Obama is personally popular, more than any recent President. This is actually not true -- the difference between Obama's first year and previous administrations is that overall, the Republican brand is unpopular and that resulted in Democrats having large majorities in both houses of Congress, particularly the Senate. The way most of the media would report it, one would think Republicans are dead and buried and we're on the cusp of many years of Democratic rule.

Despite this wishful thinking, there actually are some early but definite signs that while people may like Obama personally, they are increasingly concerned by his policy decisions, and that while they wanted to give him a chance, they are starting to put up a stop sign on the road towards the cliff of liberal policies that Obama and his allies in Congress are taking us toward.

So, why now? Why the recent drop? Here is our feeling:

1. Health Care. In the past couple weeks, there has been a ramp up on health care, including talk about tax increases, government takeovers, and a rush to get it passed this summer. The public is quite cautious about this. Rasmussen shows the public is evenly divided on whether we should even pursue health care reform at all right now -- 44 to 43 say we shouldn't, and that doesn't mean the 43% who say we should are in favor of Obama's plan. Health Care Reform means different things to different people.

2. Foreign Policy. In the past week, we've had North Korea threatning to send a missile flying towards Hawaii around July 4 and a consensus view that Obama's response has not been firm enough there. In Iran, we've had huge rallies for freedom -- all leading up to a possible revolution -- yet Obama has been terribly silent. In short, we've had a Jimmy Carter type of response during a period of time when the nation needed a Ronald Reagan type of voice. Why Obama has chosen the weak route is unclear, but he has -- we think it has something to do with the fact that siding with the revolutionists in Iran would essentially be admitting that George W. Bush's strategy of promoting freedom around the world was a sound one -- that even though the U.S. may not be popular, the fact is that people still admire our freedom and freedom itself is a basic desire of humans -- and that promoting it in the Middle East in places like Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan is the ultimate way to win the war on terror.

So, rather than standing up to the regimes of Iran and North Korea, Obama has appeared weak and, to add fuel to the "clueless on foreign policy wire", has been mired in a debate over what to do with terrorists at Gitmo, including what essentially amounts to a payoff to send a bunch of them to the nation of Palau -- not to mention that 3 or 4 of them were swimming in Bermuda, without notifying the British government. No state wants them in the U.S., so Obama is caught in between his crazy leftists supporters who think Gitmo is some kind of torture chamber and want all the the terrorists in the American Court System, and the realities of foreign policy which are a lot tougher than the rhetoric of a liberal presidential campaign.

The result is the American people have essentially -- as they always did -- sided with Bush and Cheney on the issue of terrorism, and Obama's ratings have dropped.

3. Americans Don't Want Socialism.. Americans are increasingly weary of Obama's steady move towards socialism. The fact the word is being tossed around so regularly by Republicans and people in general has begun to creep its way into the American political lexicon, and no matter what the media will try to to squash it, the evidence is too clear to deny or hide -- trillions of dollars of goverment spending, buying out the auto industry, the huge steps on executive pay, running private companies -- plus threatning to take over the health care industry -- is frightening Americans. They don't want the debt burden and they didn't sign up for socialisim when they voted for Obama. This is causing, in our eyes, a backlash -- and Americans are putting up the stop sign.

The question is -- will this trend continue or will Obama regain his previous high numbers? It's hard to tell, but historically presidents lose seats in their first midterm. Bush didn't, but Clinton did -- resulting in the dramatic Republican Revolution of 1994 which ushered in 12 years of Republican rule, not to mention things like tax cuts, welfare reform, etc. They subsequently blew it -- but the Democrats could easily hand it right back or at the very least, lose a lot of seats and therefore, making moving forward on their leftist agenda that much more difficult.

It's not just Obama either -- Democrats nationwide, from state to state, are having issues justifying their spending and taxing ways, given not only the state of the economy but state budgets. This opens up the door for Republicans who have a solid consistent conservative message and are willing to campaign on it.

And let's not forget, just last week a poll revealed that 40% of Americans identify themselves as conservative, while only 20% of the nation says they are liberals. Obama's problem is his party's base is from the 20% -- and that's where he has been governing from, by in large.

So, while the Republican brand may be temporairily suffering from years of saying one thing and doing another, the country is still larger conservative, having twice as many conservatives as liberals -- meaning it is a center-right country. Republicans have a much shorter hill to climb to get to 50% -- the key is campaigning on a conservative message that voters can reason with -- both a socially and a fiscally conservative one, so the 10% of "moderates" swing their way.

Simply put, Republicans, if they campaign as conservatives, have a lot to work with going into 2010. In an off year election like 2010, moderates may very well side with a conservative candidate, for the simple reason to give Obama a check and a balance. A true moderate voter will reject a President's policies who is governing from the 20% like they did in 1994, just as they would reject someone governing from the "very conservative" realm -- which was about 20% of the country.

And, there are signs that 2010 could be like 1994:

For 2009 races:
- In New York, which is increasingly solid blue, Democrats only held on to a seat they had just won (vacated by Gilliland becoming Senator) by just a few votes in a special election.
- In New Jersey, the Democrat Incumbent Jon Corzine is losing to his challenger, Chris Christie.
- In Virginia, Attorney General Bob McDonnell, a Republican, has pulled back ahead of the Democratic nominee, Creigh Deeds.

Both New Jersey and Virginia would be pickups in the Governor column. Count that +2 Republicans for the nation's Governors.

For 2010 races, starting with the Governorships:
- Here in Kansas, Democrats have mounted no serious challenger to Sam Brownback. Should this hold, this would be another pickup in the Governor Column, making it +3.

- In Oklahoma, Republicans have a strong possibility of picking up the Governorship, as the current Governor is term limited and the Republicans have recruited Congressman Mary Fallin to run. This solidly Republican state gave McCain his biggest margin anywhere in the country. This would make it +4 for Republicans in the Governor Column.

- In Tennessee, in which increasingly is one of the nation's most solid red states, Phil Bredesen is term limited. Republican Congressman Zach Wamp is running, as is Ron Ramsey, the Lt. Governor and State Senate Speaker. The R primary winner is favorted to win the election. Make that +5 Republicans.

- In Wyoming, incumbent Democratic Governor Dave Freudenthal was initially thought to be term-limited. However, a recent Wyoming Supreme Court ruling invalidated legislative term limits and may have for the Governor as well, though that is unclear. If he fights the Executive Term Limit, he could run for re-election. If he does, he could very well hold the seat. If he chooses not to run or isn't allowed to run, the seat would likely go into Republican hands, with several candidates positioned to run. If this happens, +6 Republicans.

That's several pickups already and we've not even entered the states where Republicans would have also have a chance, including Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio (a new poll has Kasich only down 2), Maryland, Wisconsin, Colorado, etc. Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania are all possible and Illinois, Maryland, and Wisconsin are also possible depending who decides to run -- for example, if Tommy Thompson runs in Wisconsin, the polls are even.

Now, Republicans could give back a couple states -- most particularly Rhode Island and Hawaii, which are two of the most blue states in the nation anyway.

Point of all this is to say that in states that are red, Republicans stand a good chance of getting back the Governor's mansions, in some cases for the first time in a decade. In purple states, or even some blue states like New jersey and New York, they also are quite competitive. The new numbers in Ohio demonstrate that. The only states where the Democrats have a chance is in the most solidly blue. Also, keep in mind it is in the Governorships that Republicans saw their mid 90's surge, so it's a trend worth watching.

In terms of the U.S. Senate, Republicans also have a few openings, if they can do a good job of recruiting candidates. Connecticut (Simmons is challenging Dodd) and Pennsylvania (Toomeny is challenging Specter) are strong possibilities at the moment, as are Delaware, Illinois, Nevada, Colorado, New York, Washington, Oregon, and others -- if the recruitment is solid. One positive consequence of Obama's sinking numbers is that previously unsure candidates may be convinced to run if they since a tide is under way.

Of course, the Republicans must also defend the states of Missouri (Kit bond), New Hamsphire (Judd Gregg), and Ohio (George Voinovich), where incumbents are all retiring, as well as Kentucky, where Jim Bunning's bizarre behavior may hurt his chances should he decide to run again.

So, all in all, Republican efforts in the Senate depend on recruitment and holding those four seats. Should they, even bringing the Democrats numbers down to 55 or 56 would be a huge victory -- and could deal a death blow to some of Obama's more liberal initiatives -- which is why he's trying to usher them through now.

The House side is a more complciated story, but there are increasingly possiblities all over the map. Republicans lost some long-held seats in the last couple cycles that they could gain back in a blowback against Obama. This remains to be seen.

Keep in mind, it is very early -- we are only halfway through 2009. In the next year, many more credible candidates could emerge, Obama's numbers could continue to drop, and his party's prospects -- particualrly in red states -- could sink. Voters could simply want that check and balance that doesn't currently exist, and that in itself could mean a pickup for Republicans in 2010.

How much of a pickup depends on Obama's popularity and also on the Republicans' message. Do they have one like they did in 1994, or is it just anti-Obama? A combination of the two, along with strong recruitment, could mean 2010 is a repeat. Republicans may not get back control of either house, but their gains could be significant.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Win in '10: Wanting a big bat from the Big First

This is the second installment in a series of posts entitled "Win in '10", which will be dedicated to electing conservatives at all levels of government in 2010. This post will focus on the First Congressional District of Kansas.

As we've covered here before, 2010 is shaping up to be a huge year in Kansas politics. From Sam Brownback becoming governor on down, the upcoming election has the potential to be a landscape-changing election like we haven't seen in many years.

A big reason for that is the fact that two of our state's current Congressman -- Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt -- are running for Brownback's seat, therefore opening up their respective Congressional seats. Given that both are strongly Republican -- particularly the 1st -- it has set off a competitive primary process simply because open Congressional seats don't come along very often, particualrly extremely safe ones such as District 1.

Today's post will focus on the First Congressional District, where the race is the primary. This is a district where the Democrats have sometimes not even fielded a candidate.

So far, six candidates have declared -- State Senators Tim Huelskamp, State Senator Jim Barnett, former Brownback staffer Rob Wasinger, and three lesser known figures in Tim Barker, Sue Boldra, and Tracey Mann.

In terms of strength of candidacies, we can safely divide the six candidates into two camps -- Huelskamp, Barnett, and Wasinger are the stronger candidates who have a strong chance of winnings, and then Barker, Boldra, and Mann, who probably can't win but could potentially play spoiler roles depending on how the campaign goes and how much traction they can get.

For this post, we'll focus on Huelskamp, Barnett, and Wasinger.

Let's start with Jim Barnett. Jim Barnett, of course, was the Republican nominee for Governor in 2006, getting demolished by Kathleen Sebelius in the general election. Barnett is, to put it bluntly, a man without a compass. For most of his career, he's been a moderate, though perhaps not as far to the left as someone like John Vratil. A doctor, he has been quite involved in health care, taking part in some of the efforts to build up government involvement in health care. He's also been a strong advocate for a statewide smoking ban.

When he decided he wanted to run for Governor, his record and rhetoric took a sharp right turn and he started to sound and vote like a conservative. He also picked well-known conservative Susan Wagle as his running mate. He had a professionally-run campaign but didn't have the resources and credibility and campaign presence to mount a serious challenge to Sebelius, who through a combination of factors had become a pretty safe dark blue governor in a red state.

Immediately after losing the election, in the 2007, 2008, and 2009 sessions, Barnett went back to the left on big government issues, joining with the Morris wing of the Senate, joining with them on many of the government-encroachment legislation that came before the body. The final die was cast when he had a chance to pick a side in the Senate leadership elections when his former running mate, Susan Wagle, was running for Senate President against the liberal Steve Morris. Though the final vote was 18-13, his vote was critical in terms of conservatives getting to the magical 16 number. Barnett chose Morris and with it, threw away any remaining loyalty he had built with the conservatives who put their sweat and tears on the line for him in 2006.

However, towards the end of the session, Barnett again started to show some more conservatism again - for example, he voted against the bloated budget that failed to address our state's budget crisis. It was a bit of a surprise at the time, but of course, when he recently declared for Congress -- the reason became clear -- he was running for office!

It could easily be said now that you know when Jim Barnett wants to run for office because he starts voting conservative. That doesn't mean, by the way, he's a liberal on every issue - he opposes gaming and abortion, for instance. But in the case of health care, big government, and the type of policies that have led to the "government involvement is good" mentality that has put our nation on the road to financial ruin, he's been on the wrong side too many times.

Politically speaking, Barnett resembles a bit of a threat, because it is likely moderate-leaning voters who want a horse might choose him. And, he might garner quite a bit of support from his Senate district, which represents about 10% of the Big First. So he must be taken seriously.

However, in terms of any notion that he is a wise choice for Kansans to send to Washington, we disagree. Jim Barnett is a nice man, but the last thing we need right now is the big government mentality (particularly on health care) in Washington, which is Topeka on steroids. As far as we're concerned, Senator Barnett can keep his smoking bans and big government health care and retire.

Moving on to Rob Wasinger, a Harvard educated former staffer to Bill Graves, Jerry MOran, and Sam Brownback. Here is the experience part of the bio from his site:

After graduation, it was back to Kansas, and this time with a young bride. I went to work for Governor Bill Graves as a constituent services representative. I left Governor Graves’s staff in 1995 to work for Jerry Moran, who was then the state senate majority leader. It was working for Jerry that I learned how to handle a legislative agenda, and coordinate meetings of the Senate Republican Caucus.

A year later I joined Sam Brownback’s senatorial campaign, and after his successful election to the U.S. Senate, I went to work for the Senator, and Kansas, in Washington, D.C. At first my job was to keep Sam up-dated on budget and tax issues, but he also had me focusing on issues of importance to all Kansans: rural health care, education, and Social Security. In 2003 Sam made me his legislative director, and, a bit later, named me his chief of staff.

So, essentially, Rob Wasinger has been in Washington D.C. for the past 15 years, until now, when he has decided to run for Congress. While his resume is indeed impressive and might provide a great deal of insight into the workings of Congress and inside-baseball politics, we have a lack of real knowledge of how Wasinger would approach the job as a Congressman, individual issues, constituent work, and even subjects such as basic representation. How much time will he really spend in the district? How much of a fighter will he really be for the conservative cause? Is he just wanting to be a Congressman now because he's used to Washington and wants to stay there and wants a nice politically career?

This might not sound fair to Wasinger supporters -- but the point is, but without previous experience in elected office or a real record of time living in the district -- we just don't know. Wasinger talks a good game -- he seems to be a conservative and has the endorsement of Fred Thompson, whom this blog is a big fan of. He might even have a real future in elected politics himself. He also seems to have a few supporters out there on the internet -- some have even e-mailed this blog.

Speaking of those supporters, this is another thing that is troubling. A stroll through various websites and blogs covering the race reveals several comments -- from Republicans - quite criticial of his opponent, Senator Tim Huelskamp, who has been a strong and leading voice for conservative principles in the Kansas Senate the entire time Wasinger was in Washington. While Wasinger has every right to run and provide his own perspective to the race, sending out a bunch of hacks to the internet to trash Huelskamp isn't helpful to Wasinger's campaign nor the cause, and furthers any stereotype that Wasinger has as some kind of Washington hack. If Wasinger really believed in the conservative cause, he'd be praising Huelskamp's service.

Wasinger may indeed be a conservative -- we'll assume he is. And, if it weren't for the fact Huelskamp was in the race, Wasinger might be the best choice. But, Senator Huelskamp is, and that's who we will focus on now.

Senator Tim Huelskamp is one of the leading conservative voices in Kansas. For the last 13 years, he has been one of a few lonely reasoned voices in a body -- the Kansas Senate -- lacking in them. He's fought not just on one or two pet issues, but has consistently fought the good fight on a myriad of issue battlefields, from the sanctity of life to fiscal responsiblity to low taxes to the size of government. The list goes on and on.

Just spend some time looking at Senate Journals the past few years. Not only has he been with conservatives on the big issues like the budget, the marriage amendment, and gambling, he has also been incredibly consistent on the "small" issues -- the bills which no one ever hears about nor sees, but nonetheless slowly build up big government. While other conservatives took the safe way out and voted yes on the "little stuff", Huelskamp was willing to be the "2" or "3" in 37-3 and 38-2 votes..or sometimes, 39-1. Such courage and principles should be embraced.

In short, Senator Huelskamp's conservative credentials need no boosting, but if you need proof, simply look up a few liberal blogs and examine the posts and comments. The left hates Huelskamp, calling him every bad name in the book. As far as we're concerned, that's another reason to vote for him.

One criticism of Huelskamp is personality-related -- that he's too aggressive. To this blog, that isn't a criticism -- that's a reason to support Huelskamp. In a Congressman, particularly from a super-safe district such as the Big First, we do not need someone who is a go-along get-along type who will be cautious and try to fit in. We need someone who will take the fight directly to the liberals and their big government, culture-destroying, foreign-policy inept ways. We need someone who won't be afraid to be part of a new conservative revolution.

Senator Tim Huelskamp, unquestionably, has the track record of not only VOTING right, but FIGHTING. He's unafraid to speak up on any issue, no matter the consequences. His record is backed up by the slew of endorsements from fellow conservative legislators like Mary Pilcher Cook, Lance Kinzer, and others, from previous Governor candidates Ken Canfield and Robin Jennision; and the laundry list of conservative leaders such as Jill Stanek. These people don't put their names on the line without cause, and Huelskamp has given them ample reasons to get on board.

In our eyes, Senator Tim Huelskamp would be everything you want in a Congressman, particularly in these times when we need people willing to stand up, speak up, and fight. He knows the district, knows how to legislate, has the personal track record on issues, is independent, and beholden to no one. Most of all, Senator Tim Huelskamp is a direct threat to liberalism, and that's why liberals can't stand him.

And that's why this blog supports him. He is the right man at the right time given the challenges facing this nation. While Wasinger's paper resume may be long, it's Huelskamp's real resume that we prefer -- of conservative action, conservative votes, of unyielding dedication to conservative principles. He will be a big conservative bat and that's what the Big First needs.

In our view, Rob Wasinger may have a future, but he'd be will suited to return to the district and run for the legislature -- and build a record like Huelskamp's. Given the entrance of Barnett, this blog would actually prefer that Wasinger get out of the race and endorse Huelskamp, virtually ensuring that the conservative vote is unified behind one candidate -- Tim Huelskamp.

That said, this blog believes that Huelskamp's record and time in the district makes him the clear favorite, no matter how many candidates are in the race. Much like Barnett, he has 10% of the district that has elected him several times. The conservative base loves him, and his aggressive style of campaigning and clear conservative message and credentials will earn him a strong victory in 15 months.

Congressman Tim Huelskamp -- exactly what this state and nation need.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Win in '10: Deck cleared for Sam Brownback

This is the first installment of a new series of posts entitled "Win in '10", dedicated to electing principled conservatives to public office, with a focus on Kansas and Missouri.

Today, in what had been expected and suggested for weeks by many, Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh announced today he was dropping his bid for Governor.

What this means is that the deck has now been cleared for U.S. Senator Sam Brownback to become Governor. No credible Republican from either the moderate or conservative wings is going to challenge Sam, and it is highly unlikely that the Democrats, who have a very thin bench, will be able to find anyone who could mount any kind of substantial challenge to Senator Brownback.

So, basically, unless something dramatic happens, and while nothing is guaranteed, Sam Brownback will be the next Governor of Kansas in January, 2011.

What does this mean for the state, for the 2010 elections, and for Kansas electoral politics in general? This is what we're going to cover today in our first installment of "Win in '10", a series of posts dedicated to conservatives winning the 2010 elections. Given that in Kansas, it all starts with the top of the ticket, it seems prudent to start with the Kansas Governor's race.

First of all, in terms of the state, it means that for the first time in history, Kansas will have a real conservative governor. In terms of policy, this means:

- Kansas will now have a Governor dedicated to budget reform and fiscal responsibility, bringing into focus a possible solution the the state budget crisis. Senator Brownback will likely embrace zero-based budgeting, which means every program funded by the state will be under review for performance and need.

- Kansas will now have a Governor dedicated to conservative economic principles such as lower taxes, less regulation, and a free market economy. While Obama might be taking us down the road to socialized medicine on a national level, it will no longer have an ally in the Governor of Kansas. Tax reductions meant to make Kansas more business friendly will no longer be opposed or rolled back. This means the real possiblity for private-sector economic growth in Kansas.

- Kansas will now have a pro-life Governor who is a member of a party that is also pro-life in principle. This means that those who seek to have abortion-on-demand will no longer have a left-wing ally in the Governor's office. It means that our state's abortion laws might actually be enforced.

- State executive departments will now be filled by Brownback appointees, meaning that if he delivers on his principles, we'll have a government led by people who believe in government efficiency and small government -- not the "build stuff no matter the cost" mentality that has existed for a long time.

- The court system might actually have a chance at some reform, if a Governor Brownback opts to push for court reform so he can actually have some degree of influence on the makeup of the courts, as the electorate would expect in electing a conservative as Governor. At least we might see reform at the Court of Appeals and District Court levels, which only take statutory, rather than Constitutional, changes.

The list goes on and on. Of course, that's the long-term future for once Brownback gets elected. In the short term, there could be a huge effect on the 2010 elections and also the state of politics in Kansas in general.

By having Sam Brownback running for Governor, conservative Republicans -- and, Republicans in general -- are yielding their biggest electoral stick they've ever had. The moderates had theirs in Bill Graves, who enjoyed 60-70% approval ratings for much of his term. The Dems had theirs in Kathleen Sebelius, who enjoyed approval ratings in the 50's and with it, strengthened the Democratic Party and gave liberals a presence in Kansas, enough so they now control the courts. Now, in Sam Brownback, conservatives now have theirs.

First of all, credit and thanks need to be sent to Sam Brownback for deciding to run. He could have chosen to remain in the U.S. Senate, and would have likely had the job as long as he wanted. By choosing to run for Governor, he is taking direct responsibility for his own state -- which has unfortunately has not been the deep red state that many think it is. Despite what Steve Rose claims, the legislature has not been conservative -- and aside from four years of Phill Kline, conservatives have not held a statewide position in recent memory. Sam Brownback's involvement changes all that.

Second of all, for conservatives running elsewhere on the ticket, he encourages conservatives to file and will likely to turn up at the polls. While it was over a decade ago, the last time Sam Brownback ran for something new -- the U.S. Senate in 1996 -- he carried Vince Snowbarger over the line in both the primary and the general elections -- the last time any Republican held the 3rd District -- and the only time a conservative did. This could repeat itself again in 2010 if conservatives -- and Republicans in general -- get their ducks in a row in time. The effect will be similar to one the Democrats had in 2006 -- conservatives will be more motivated to show up, and if other conservatives are running on the ballot, it will be much easier to continuing punching conservative -- and Republican -- names as they go down the ballot, if they have the appropriate information. So, whether it be the open U.S. Senate race, the four Congressional races, the other statewide offices, or State Representatives (State Senators are not up til 2012), Sam Brownback's leadership on the ballot could create a conservative wave that we have not seen in over a decade. With Brownback not currently having major opposition of any kind, he will also be free to help out fellow Republicans on the ballot.

Third of all, with Brownback as Governor, the long term political status of the state could also be impacted. While the near term effect in 2010 could be large in itself, the greater effect will be longer term. Brownback will likely be a powerful fundraising tool for state reps and senators running for office -- something conservatives have not had, which has put them at a disadvantage the past several election cycles. Also, he will have a key hand in redistricting, which would have a decades long impact on the political makeup of the state. In terms of legislative leadership -- particularly the State Senate, where conservatives have not had control -- there could be an impact after the 2012 elections. Fence sitters who sided with moderates this time will be less likely to do so if the Governor is twisting their arms. Simply put, the influence of people like Steve Morris and John Vratil could be coming to an end -- in fact, it would not be surprising to see either of these people -- nor their allies -- to run for reelection in 2012. Such is the effect when your power is taken away. If conservatives can do a good job of candidate recruitment, support, and training -- the small (but bigger than previous) Democrat and liberal Republican bench could be largely eliminated.

Finally, and this is quite important -- having the Governorship means the media has to cover you -- and while it may not always be positive, Sam Brownback has the resources and political skills necessary to impact the public's reaction to policy decisions in a positive way. The fact is, while the left doesn't like him and some conservatives have a beef with him on a couple policy issues -- the man is largely quite popular in the same way Bill Graves was. This will have an impact on the public's perception of conservatism.

Of course, this all presents a challenge to Brownback. Conservatives will have high expectations if and when Brownback becomes Governor. The media will be looking for ways to expose any rifts and also look for anything negative it can pin on Sam. Liberals -- and moderate Republicans -- will too.

The reason for that is that they see the same picture as we are painting here -- the potential impact of Brownback as Governor is huge, both policy wise and poltically. He changes everything, and they know it. Right now, they know there is little they can do to stop the train that is coming down the tracks, but once elected, they will look for any reason possible to derail the Sam Train.

This of course, means that conservatives must be resolute, and this is the point we will close with.

Conservatives have, justifiably in some cases, had differences with Senator Brownback on a few issues. The most notable one is immigration, where Sam has taken a heart felt position that is in opposition to what most conservatives believe. Many also have taken issue with his vote on the confirmation of Kathleen Sebelius.

Our advice: Fine -- but get over it. This is our one chance at a real conservative change in Kansas. Sam Brownback may not be perfect, but no politician is. He has the skills to win, and agrees with us on 90% of stuff, and has the personal demeanor that can communicate conservative ideals to the public in a way that they welcome.

Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the great. Respect the fact Sam has a couple differences, and embrace the 90% of the cases where you agree, focus on those, and focus on helping out other conservatives down the ballot. Take the emergence of a possible Governor Brownback as the huge opportunity that it is -- and the likely only one conservatives will ever get in the forseeable future.

Instead, we need to focus our collective energy on ensuring Sam wins and helping out other conservatives down the ballot. If you are a conservative in a seat currently held by a liberal, consider running. If there is running in a place where you live, help them. Donate to them.

In short, let's not simply make the possibility of a Governor Brownback just one nice political victory. Let's turn it into a real movement, capturing the concern over Obama and the course the Democrats are taking us and combining it with the rare chance at a unified, strong on message, strong on resources conservative ticket we've not had in recent years in Kansas.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Can we please send Steve Rose to a political science class?

Steve Rose has done it again.

In another riveting edition of his "Memo" entitled "We'll learn from California", Steve Rose employed his typical style - start with his own version of a fact he wants to discuss, make a few decent observations, create a straw man, and then attack the straw man in an effort to make a point that makes very little sense and is in fact the opposite of reality.

In this case, the "adjusted fact" was his view that tax cuts have put Kansas in a financial crisis, the few good observations were some long overdue spending cuts, his strawman was the Kansas Chamber and "conservatives", and his nonsensical point that drastic spending cuts in Calfiornia will be so terrible that Kansans won't want it and, as he puts it "citizens will rebel, even if it means increased taxes." He seems to imply that a high tax, high spending state, even one in a budget crisis, is preferable to one where our government spends within our means, people have money in their pockets, and government size is in line with what people really need.

If it weren't for the fact this man influenced the opinion of thousands of Johnson Countians who rely on his weekly column for information and insight into what is going on with Kansas politics, we wouldn't waste our time disecting his drivel.

Rather, we'd take up a fund to send Mr. Rose to a political science class -- because his ignorance of the facts and political realities of the present do a great disservice to his readers.

Let's start with the "facts" he lays out:

"All the tax cuts over the past 10 years have left Kansas reeling in red ink."

This is downright false. Taxes are not the reason for us being in red ink. Taxes are still too high in Kansas, in fact. If it weren't for the tax cuts that have been passed, our state's economy would even further be in the toilet and be even more of a government-dominated state. What has us in red ink is at the heart of the question he then poses to his readers:

"Why has spending increased over the rate of inflation?"

Um, Steve -- has it occurred to you that the reason we are in red ink is that we are spending over the rate of inflation and population growth?

He answers his question this way:

"Simple. Courts have ordered $800 million more for K-12 schools, citizens are demanding more services, universities need more to keep tuition within reach of the middle class, and, as I said, Kansans want more bad guys in jail, whether it is for possession of marijuana or illegal immigration."

Now, part of that is true -- those are some of the reasons for the ridiculous levels of spending in Kansas. It is questionable whether "citizens are demanding more services", as it is our opinion citizens simply want more of their money and government to use their tax dollars efficiently.

Mr. Rose also makes several good suggestions for possible cuts:

- Reducing the number of Regents universities (we agree)
- Reducing the number of community colleges from 19 (we agree)
- Reducing the number of school district, from 308 (we agree)

He then says, "If consolidation is not politically feasible, what expesnes should we whack out of the budget?"

On this point, he attempts to deflect the question to the Chamber, ignoring the holes in the question he is asking. Rather than trashing tax cuts and critizcizing conservatives, perhaps he should instead demand we elect representatives who will stand for the spending cuts he himself proposes.

He also ignores the real problem -- the fact that the legislature has never operated from a zero-based budgeting standpoint. That is, rather than starting at "Zero" every year in funding programs, the starting point is the previous year's spending, even if that spending was too high. What we end up with is a situation where it is very hard to reduce the actual size of any program. Instead, what we should do is be looking at every single dime going out, making sure it is justified, and if it isn't, cutting it.

He then follows with this outright misstatement:

"Our very conservative Legislature struggled mightily to come up with budget cuts this past session to close the budget gap. If a conservative, low-tax Legislature cannot easily find places to cut, what does that tell you?"

Very conservative legislature? Who is he kidding? It was CONSERVATIVE legislators who wanted to have a budget that cut spending -- it was Steve's moderate and liberal buddies that stopped further reductions!

Furthermore, the legislature isn't conservative and it certainly isn't "very conservative". The Kansas Senate is ran by liberal Republicans such as Steve Morris and John Vratil. The leadership for this session was 18 - 13 on the Republican side. Add in the 9 Democrats to the 18 "moderates" and you have a legislature that is 27 moderates and Democrats to 13 conservatives.

In the House, there is a higher percentage of conservatives, and they do control the Republican caucus, but that still wasn't enough to gain a majority of the body itself. Again, a coalition of Democrats and moderates -- 12 of them from Johnson County -- prevented a budget that would have reduced spending further and put Kansas on the road to economic sanity.

Where is this "very conservative" legislature Steve Rose is speaking of?

There isn't one.

The fact is conservatives have never had control of the Senate. They've had the House at times but never enough to reduce spending. In fact, year after year, coalitions of Democrats and moderate Republicans have passed high spending budgets that are responsible for the situation we're in.

Steve Rose says that Kansas will follow California. In the case of spending, it already has, which is why we are where we are in this state. California, long controlled by moderates and liberals, is now in a state of severe financial crisis. And no one would argue Calfornia is a land of "very conservative" politicians. Kansas, long controlled by moderates and for the last 7 years, a liberal Governor, is now in a crisis of it's own. It seems to us that if one were to take a basic political science class, that perhaps one would reason that the moderate and liberal fiscal policies haven't worked.

Of course, Steve Rose knows this, but won't admit it -- because it would blow a gigantic hole in his decades-long argument that moderate and liberal policies work, and that conservatives are just a bunch of right wingers who hate education and want to close all public schools.

What the Kansas Chamber -- and conservatives -- are trying to prevent is Kansas becoming even more like California. What they're trying to prevent is having to make the kinds of cuts they are talking about in Calfiornia -- but rather, making sizeable cuts now so we're not in that kind of position later. What they're also trying to do is implement budget reform and taxpayer transparency so this budget crisis doesn't happen again.

The problem for Mr. Rose is that these plans, if implemented successfully, would mean that the moderate and liberal view of the world would have been proven a failure -- that their high tax, high spending agenda was over, and that conservatives, embraced by the public for implementing policies which actually preserve public services (but at a workable rate), might actually be kept in power.

And that would, of course, render all future weekly "Memos" null and void.